Measles case confirmed in Hawke’s Bay

An infant has been confirmed with measles in Hawke’s Bay and is in Hawke’s Bay Hospital. 

The infant contracted the highly contagious airborne disease while visiting Auckland. 

Hawke’s Bay District Health Board Medical Officer of Health, Dr Nicholas Jones, said public health officials were working swiftly with family and other known close contacts to ensure those who weren’t immunised against measles stayed in isolation to avoid further spread of the disease. 

The infant was not yet at the age for immunisation to help protect against the virus. The Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine is routinely given at 15 months and 4 years of age.  

 “Measles spreads easily from person to person through the air by breathing, sneezing or coughing, but it is preventable if people are immunised against it,” said Dr Jones. 

“The first early symptoms of measles are fever, runny nose, sore red eyes and cough. After three to five days a red, blotchy rash appears on the face and head and then spreads down the body.” 

Dr Jones said public health teams were contacting people known to have come into contact with the case but also wanted to alert the public about possible contacts in the community.

“Prior to the family realising the nature of the illness, the infant accompanied a member of the family to New World in Flaxmere on Wednesday 10 July between 5pm and 5.30pm.  

“Whilst we believe the risk would be relatively low, we urge anyone who was shopping at the supermarket on that day within those timeframes to check their immunisation status and contact their doctor should they start experiencing any onset of measles symptoms.” 

“I would like to stress that there is no exposure risk to people who visited outside of that date or time period.” 

Dr Jones said public health officials were also directly contacting people who presented to Hawke’s Bay Hospital’s Emergency Department and were in the waiting room on Friday 12 July between 8pm and 2:30am on Saturday 13 July and again on Tuesday 16 July between 4:30pm and 6:40pm.   Anyone concerned, who had not yet spoken to a health official, could contact their family doctor or Healthline 24/7 on 0800 611 116. 

 “The most important message is, if you believe you or a family member may have measles, please stay at home and phone your doctor to alert them of your symptoms and allow them to make arrangements to assess you safely and without infecting other people, or call Healthline for advice. 

“I would also urge anyone born after 1969 who is not fully immunised against measles to contact their doctor about having the free vaccine because it offers the best protection,” he said. 

Local primary health care providers (family doctors and urgent care providers) have been advised to be alert to patients presenting or phoning in with symptoms.

Key Information about measles and MMR vaccine:

  • Measles is highly contagious – and easily preventable.
  • It affects both children and adults.
  • Two doses of the measles vaccine provides the most effective protection for yourself, your family and the wider community. After one dose of the MMR vaccine, about 95% of people are protected from measles. After two doses, more than 99% people are protected.
  • In New Zealand, if you were born in 1969 or later, you can get the measles vaccine for free.
  • Vaccination is particularly important if you are planning to travel anywhere overseas – to protect yourself and to help prevent outbreaks in New Zealand.
  • Older children and adults aged up to 50 years who have no documented evidence of vaccination against measles are recommended to get vaccinated. 
  • Almost everyone aged 50 or older who have had measles as a child is therefore immune. 90 percent of people in their 30s and 40s are immune. Teenagers and young adults are least likely to have been immunised as young children.
  • If you’re not sure of your vaccination history, you can check your Well Child/Tamariki Ora (or Plunket) book, or ask your general practice. 

Helplines or more info

Immunisation Advisory Centre free phone: 0800 IMMUNE (0800 466 863)
• Immunisation Advisory Centre website:www.immune.org.nz
• Ministry of Health 2019 measles outbreak information: www.health.govt.nz/your-health/conditions-and-treatments/diseases-and-illnesses/measles/2019-measles-outbreak-information
• Ministry of Health website: www.health.govt.nz/measles
• Don't Assume You're Immune website: www.getimmunised.org.nz

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